Nearly 80% of ICU beds are full across the US – Here’s what you need to know

AP Photo/Hau Dinh

(CNN) – As people start to travel for the holidays, doctors warn the surge in Covid-19 cases could continue thanks to the heightened transmissibility of the Omicron variant.

National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said Friday that the Omicron variant is so contagious it could potentially cause hundreds of thousands, and up to a million, cases a day. Even if it’s milder overall, the sheer volume of cases could lead to a rise in hospitalizations.

Experts say the Delta variant is driving the December surge in cases, but they are keeping a close eye on the new variant as they continue to learn more about it. Omicron currently accounts for nearly 3% of Covid-19 cases in the US vs. Delta’s nearly 97%, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Doctors and the Biden administration reiterate that the US has tools to prevent the worst. Data shows vaccines are effective in protecting against severe disease.

Here’s a look at where things stand:

US cases

  • The US is now averaging 130,499 new Covid-19 cases each day, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • This is 10% higher than a week ago, and back to levels last seen about two months ago during the summer surge.
  • Nearly 80% of the country’s intensive care unit beds are already full, and one in five are Covid-19 patients, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Vaccines

  • Unvaccinated people face a 10 times greater risk of testing positive and 20 times greater risk of dying from Covid-19 than fully vaccinated people who have also received a booster, according to data published recently by the CDC.
  • Moderna said that preliminary data suggests its half-dose booster shot increased antibody levels against Omicron compared with the levels seen when a fully vaccinated person does not receive a booster, but a larger-sized dose of the booster increases antibody levels even more. The company also said it is working on variant-specific boosters.

Global cases

  • Stricter Covid-19 measures have come into effect across Europe, as several nations rush to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.
  • The annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, due to take place in January, has been deferred due to “continued uncertainty” over the Omicron outbreak. It will be the second year in a row that an in-person event has not taken place.
  • Case numbers in South Africa have started to decline, according to the national chair of the South African Medical Association. Officials said the Omicron variant has not caused the death rate to spike and the cases are less severe than Delta cases.

New York

  • One in eight new Covid-19 cases reported in the US last week were in New York.
  • New York State set a new record for single-day Covid-19 cases for a third consecutive day Sunday, according to data released by the governor’s office. The state reported 22,478 positive Covid-19 cases, up from 21,908 on Saturday and 21,027 on Friday.

Travel

  • A Royal Caribbean cruise ship that docked in Miami over the weekend had 48 people aboard who tested positive for Covid-19, the cruise line said. There were more than 6,000 guests and crew members, meaning fewer than 1% of the people aboard tested positive.
  • As people start traveling for the holidays, doctors are recommending some safety precautions for those who want to keep their Christmas plans. This includes quarantining for at least three days before your visit, getting tested and getting vaccinated. You can read more here.

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